Less Stress And More Productivity In Five Easy Steps

14 September 2017

A feeling (an unwelcome, this-ain't-fun feeling) I get on pretty much a daily basis is that my mind is overloaded with 'things', of an important nature and an unimportant nature and everything else in between. I have a thousand thoughts a minute, to the point where I wonder if the person sitting next to me on the tube can physically hear the cogs whirring round inside my brain. And I wouldn't be surprised if you can relate, too - we live in a fast-paced society where everyone's REALLY, REALLY BUSY and sometimes it's just... a bit much.

The other day, I properly thought about the fact that I never do just one thing at one time. You might be thinking, "yeah that's this pretty common thing called multi-tasking Meg, people have been doing it for quite a while", but I mean more in the sense that I genuinely can't make it through 30 minutes of Gavin & Stacey without also being on my phone for a good three-quarters of the episode. It's 10pm and I've worked all day and I should be winding down and it's my time to chill but there I am: arranging meetings with PRs, refreshing Instagram, replying to DMs from viewers, pausing the program to listen to a WhatsApp voice note, checking my emails. Goodbye chuckling away at Bryn and Nessa, hello insomnia and the realisation that I've trained myself to constantly be doing something.

It's like I've started viewing relaxing as a 'waste of time' wherein I could be doing something, which is totally untrue because everyone needs their downtime. Maybe it's that I follow an endless amount of absolute girl-bosses who seem to be on their grind 24/7, maybe it's a decreased attention span (thanks a lot, Vine) or maybe it's knowing that my chronic illness means I have to make up for lost time wherever possible, but what I do know to be true is that self-care is super important.

With that being said, I've been taking 'steps to stop simultaneously slogging' (say that five times fast) and you know what? My mind feels clearer, a weight has been lifted and I've actually gotten more done, not less. Hope this helps any fellow overthinkers out there who's brain has too many tabs open!

1. Remove distractions so even if you're tempted, you're kinda forced to just... not. Let me follow up that crappy explanation with an example: if your phone is an entirely different room, when your mind inevitably starts to wander when you're meant to concentrating and you automatically reach for it, guess what, it ain't in arms reach any longer! It means I actually crack on with the blog post I've been meaning to write rather than check the #cheesewheel hashtag on Instagram instead, therefore increasing productivity and decreasing my intense cheese cravings. "One cannot scroll if the device on which thou scrolls upon is absent" - Meg Says, 2017.

2. Don't begin a new task until you've started and completed an existing oneThis tip is the one I've found most helpful because I'm a real floozy when it comes to my to-do list - I'll be halfway through editing a vlog for my second channel then my brain will ping! me ten times in a row with other chores that need doing and before I know it I've abandoned said vlog in an attempt to do ten entirely different things, all at once of course. Pick a job, give it your all so you know you've done it properly and to the best of your ability, tick it off, pick a new job, repeat. I've also found that this method reduces human error too, e.g. failing to attach your invoice in a solely 'just sending my invoice over' email AND signing off with 'Best wishes, Meh' due to flying through your inbox/simultaneous slogging. 

3. Break up your day in whichever way you find best. Personally I like a good hour by hour system, so in the morning when I'm finalising my to-do list for the day I'll add timings next to the tasks - e.g. where I'd normally write 'do emails', I now write 'do emails (9-10am)'. It can seem incredibly tedious to have your whole day planned out, but I've gotten busier lately and need my days to be as productive as possible. I even sometimes set an alarm on my phone, and find this stops me from absentmindedly opening another tab (usually Tyler Oakley's Tumblr) because there's just something about a time limit that stops faffing!

4. Change your environment whenever possible! I know you may be reading this and thinking, 'that's easy for you to say, you're a blogger with no set hours and the ability to work anywhere you like', but I'm not a central-London dweller who's surrounded by inspiration and interesting people all day - I live out in the countryside (nobody will even deliver takeaways here) with zero transport and sometimes working from home can get really lonely and lead to feelings of isolation. Recently I got my own car - vlog here - and even just the thought of being able to drive to a little café to write in rather than sitting on my sofa lifted my spirits. A change is as good as a rest as they say, and it can be a little change also - decluttering the drawers in your desk, finding a new place to get lunch, chatting with a colleague you haven't met before in the break-room or adding a print to the wall of your office.

5. Chill out, and I mean properly chill out - forget being half in relaxation-mode and half in job-mode, why do either if you're only giving fifty per cent to each? We're talking one hundred per cent relaxation, people! My favourite way to do this is have a bath in the evening as it signals the end of my day and gives me the chance to properly unwind before hitting the day. At the moment I'm loving the Zoella Beauty Sweet Inspirations range, in particular the Bath Milk for frothy bubbles and the Sugar Dip for silky water, and I also pop my laptop on top of the toilet seat to watch some Netflix. Slightly risky, but I've dropped too many books into the water to count and if I don't have something to do, I'd twiddle my thumbs for about two minutes before hopping out to watch Riverdale in bed.

Meditation is another thing I'd highly recommend as you can do it anytime anywhere and it's amazing at centring you in the moment (slightly pretentious turn of phrase I know, but it's the best way I can describe how it makes me feel!) when everything around you feels rushed and you just need to like, chill for a sec.* Check out Andrew Johnson in the App Store or the book Calm - both have helped me hugely and are perfect for beginners. Happy relaxing!

*If you know what film this is from, please be my best friend for ever and ever.

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Photos by Megan Duffield Photography